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Original Issue

From the Near East to the Far West

The Arabian is now a popular U.S. breed and his own show is a first-rate affair

A hundred years ago camels plodded the Arizona desert, brought there at the urging of Edward Fitzgerald Beale and Jefferson Davis, who thought they would be ideal work animals in the area. Davis, of course, is remembered for other matters; Beale, perhaps because he was a Navy man, was able to claim some success for his "ships of the desert." But ultimately the venture proved a failure—horsemen did not like the camels' rolling motion, and they were not popular with ranchers because they frightened the other animals. Today, however, another native of the Middle East thrives within sight of Phoenix's Camelback Mountain: the Arabian horse. There are some 250 purebreds in this 20-mile area, probably the most concentrated breeding place of fine Arabians in this country.

Oddly, many of the Arabians now prospering on luxurious Arizona ranches have not been brought directly from one desert to another. They or their ancestors first traveled from Arabia either to Poland or England before coming here. On Bob Aste's Desert Arabian Ranch the oldest Polish import, a 25-year-old stallion named Lotnik, is still getting foals. Lotnik's route to Arizona was truly circuitous. He was "liberated" from his German captors by General George Patton, sold at auction with a lot of army horses, and finally obtained by Aste in payment of a feed bill. Seventeen more Polish-bred Arabians arrived last week, chosen by Scottsdale breeders from photographs taken by one of the Arizonans during a recent tour. So far there have been no complaints from "The Committee to Warn of the Arrival of Communist Merchandise on the Local Business Scene," a group that usually flies into action at the sight of a Polish ham on a market shelf, but such protests would not unduly alarm the breeders. The horsemen are more interested in bloodlines than party lines.

The Arabian's popularity springs partly from his looks and disposition and partly from his name—the very word Arabian stirs the imagination to visions of plunging stallions and romantic scenes. Actually, many of the stallions are so gentle that women and children ride and show them without difficulty. They are relatively small, averaging between 14 and 15 hands. This size appeals to many owners who like to keep Arabians as pets and companions as well as mounts. Their backs are short—they have one to three less vertebrae than other horses—their tails are carried in a lofty, natural arch, and they have a bigger brain cavity than other horses. Breeders say this accounts for their high intelligence. A large eye, a slightly dished face and a dainty muzzle compose the classic head beloved by romantic painters of horses. "After you've been around Arabians," says Guy Stillman, president of Scottsdale's All Arabian show, "no other horse looks pretty."

Some 300 of these handsome animals, from 19 states, gathered last week for Scottsdale's eighth annual All Arabian Horse Show, held at the McCormick Ranch. Mrs. Anne McCormick was one of the Arabian pioneers in Arizona and has built a showground, complete with barns, a large ring and grandstands that are used solely for this event. More than 18,000 spectators watched over the four days as the Arabians were jumped, driven, ridden in English, Western and Arabian native attire, and also worked as cutting horses to demonstrate that the breed is not only decorative but also highly adaptable. California-owned horses carried off most of the honors, while Arizonans bit the bullet, smiled and claimed to be pleased that the out-of-staters were enjoying themselves. Mrs. Inez Doner of Elsinore, Calif. was the most elated winner on the showground. Her handsome chestnut stallion, Muzulmanin, shown by her husband Charles, was declared the grand champion stallion. A 6-year-old, Muzulmanin was purchased, via correspondence, in Poland in 1961. Mrs. Doner has grown extremely fond of him—so much so that at first she did not want to bring him to the show. "I couldn't have borne it," she said, "if the judges had passed him by!"